The Idea of Public Reason Rejected

From this article in The New York Times. Michael, David, and I were making fun of Rawlsian public reason last night in our weekly philosophy discussion group, but then stuff like this comes down the pike, and you think, “Hey, we’re not denying that Rawls was addressing a real problem…”

The zeal to embody the whole truth in politics is incompatible with an idea of public reason that belongs with democratic citizenship.

–John Rawls, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” Collected Papers, p. 574.

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How to Face Down the Secret Service

More or less like this:

And not just the Secret Service, but any law enforcement agency that treats you as these officers treat her.

On the whole, I’d say she gets things just right. Some minor criticisms:

I would not have bothered to ask the agent about any charges the Secret Service might be contemplating; unless they’re formally making a charge, they won’t truthfully tell you what charges they have in mind. In any case, they have the legal authority to lie and bluff about whatever charges they’re contemplating, so there’s no reason to believe anything they tell you before they arrest you. If they have a formal charge to make, they’ll make it if and when they arrest you (or even more precisely, if and when you’re arraigned); otherwise, asking about prospective charges is a waste of time, and a good way of getting needlessly drawn into an unintentionally incriminating conversation with them, which is what they’re here for, and the last thing you want to do. Continue reading

Unreasonable Suspicion

I just called the cops on a guy who drove a van up to my garage, jumped out, took a picture of it, hurriedly jumped back into his van, and drove away with the tires screeching. With full certainty that the motherfucker was casing our house to burglarize it (as Rashida Tlaib might put it), I grabbed my phone and got a picture of the van driving away, doing my best to memorize what I could about it. I told the police dispatcher that the guy was taking a picture of the keypad to my garage.  The cops put out an APB on the guy, and sent an officer to our house. Continue reading

Nothing Comes from Nothing

From this morning’s email harvest:

Good morning,

The Interlibrary Loan book titled, “Tax revolt: something for nothing in California” is due back to the Lodi Campus Library.

Please be diligent in returning this book.

Thank you,

Felician University Libraries

McCarthyism Redux: BDS and the Right to Boycott

I know how monomaniacal I sound on this topic, but I get this way when facing brazen, unapologetic McCarthyism. Some of this stuff has to be read or heard to be believed, so I simply draw these items to your attention in case you haven’t seen them, and in case, having read/seen them, you feel inclined to take appropriate action. Obviously, they’re not intended to be an exhaustive or comprehensive list of links on the subject, and not even meant as advocacy of BDS itself as the right tactic to adopt. Continue reading

Philosophy Journals: Who Needs Them

One of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2019 is to “get more organized.” To that end, I’ve decided to get rid of a bookshelf’s worth of philosophy journals that I (partly) inherited from my erstwhile officemate, Joe Biehl, now Executive Director of Young Philosophers of New York. I tried unsuccessfully to offload these on the university’s library, but got literally no response from them (although to be fair, that was a whole Library Director ago, so maybe I should try again). When I taught at elite institutions, it was customary for people in this situation to leave unwanted journals in the faculty lounge for eager graduate students to snap up, but I no longer teach at an elite institution, so that’s not an option. (Indeed, that’s how Joe and I acquired this useless collection in the first place.) Continue reading

It Sometimes Begins with Emerson

I just did this survey, “put together by the Philosophy Learning and Teaching Organization (PLATO) and the APA Committee on Pre-College Instruction in Philosophy.” (You have to be an APA member to take it.)

It was fun. It gave me a chance to reflect on my first encounter with philosophy, which, contrary to the old saw, didn’t begin with Ayn Rand. It began in a high school English class on American literature, where we read Emerson and Thoreau. I’m not sure contemporary analytic philosophers would regard either of the two as real philosophers, but whatever you call them, they were my first contact with anything describable as philosophy.* I found them pretty enthralling, and still do. As it happens, I’m re-reading Walden for the first time in a couple of decades, and enjoying it immensely. One of my undergraduate teachers, George Kateb, predicted to me back then that I would one day forsake Ayn Rand and return home to the American Transcendentalists. I was offended at the time, but by George, he was right. Continue reading

Against HIPPster Regulation

Consider this post a rant-by-proxy: I owe the basic idea for it to my therapist wife, Alison, but the issue occurred to me independently (though not with such clarity) a few years ago, after I took a professional ethics course for my counseling degree.

Psychotherapy is an odd vocation that’s hard to categorize in a straightforward way. A therapist is in some respects like a teacher, in some respects like a friend, in some like a parent, in some like a religious minister, and in some like a physician. But at the end of the day, therapy is a sui generis activity with its own internal standards and internal goods. Therapy may resemble pedagogy, friendship, parenting, spiritual counseling, and medicine in some respects, but isn’t any of those things. Nonetheless, the powers-that-be have decided nowadays that psychotherapy is a form of medicine, or if that strains credulity, that it ought to be medicalized as much as possible.    Continue reading